Forecasting game proves predicting weather is harder than it looks10 July 2020
We all moan when the weather forecast is wrong, and many of us swear we can sense when rain is coming, but a new game has revealed we aren’t as good at predicting the weather as we like to think.
The Weather Game, lauinched last week by meteorologists at the University of Reading, is challenging the public to predict things like maximum temperature, total sunshine and total rainfall each weekend in locations around the world. Points are awarded based on how accurate the forecasts prove to be, with players competing to top the leaderboard.
The results for the first round of predictions showed that:
- Only one of the nearly 300 players managed to predict exactly how much rainfall there would be in Reading between Saturday morning and Monday morning (0.2mm).
- No one correctly predicted how much rain would fall in Nanjing, China (18.8mm).
- The player with the highest score in round one did not get any of the predictions spot on (excluding the multiple choice question).
- One player predicted 1,500 times (300mm) more rain for Reading than the 0.2mm that actually fell.
- The mean average of all predictions was too high in every category, suggesting we tend to overestimate both how wet and how warm and sunny the weather will be.
- Rainfall was the most overestimated forecast (+6.6mm for Reading and +12.5mm for Nanjing), according to the mean average of all predictions.
Professor Andrew Charlton-Perez, Head of the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading, said: “While it is easy to question how forecasters didn’t see a rain shower coming after the event, this game shows that sometimes the weather just doesn’t do what you expect it to. Every forecast is made of many predictions of complex interacting processes, so making accurate predictions is a lot harder than it looks.
“We hope that the Weather Game is a lot of fun, and helps people to understand the pitfalls of prediction and the elation of getting a forecast right. We also hope it gives people a bit of understanding of the excitement and responsibility of making a real weather forecast, as many of our alumni do, particularly when public safety or significant financial investments and losses are on the line.
“Meteorology and climate science needs brainy mathematicians, physicists, geographers, computer scientists and others to help improve our methods of making predictions and to invent new ones. Anyone studying these subjects at school may want to consider being part of this real-world challenge as a career in the future.”
The Weather Game has been played by staff and students at Reading for several years, but this is the first time it has been fully opened to the public.
The locations for the game were chosen due to their interesting and varying geographical features, and their connection with the University of Reading. Reading, Nanjing and Oklahoma are three of the biggest centres of excellence for the study of weather.
Meteorology students at Reading have the opportunity to visit Oklahoma during their degrees to learn about their unique weather systems and witness natural phenomena and storms that do not occur in the UK.